Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stretching the Space-Time Continuum

As if this drama-slash-tribal council isn't enough stress in my son's life...

Today Josiah and his dad head to Cedarville University for an overnight stay and college viewing.

Tomorrow he will go to two classes of choice, interview with admissions, go to chapel, interview with a professor, eat with theater students, go to the college production of "Alice in Wonderland," and arrive back home around 10 pm.

Day after tomorrow, Josiah hopefully will have call-backs. Then scurry to Marietta College for a tour, dinner at the dining hall, and viewing of their college production of "Stop the World - I Want to Get Off."

...that seems appropriate...

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Brian takes a group of five up to the Akron area for our district missions training.

And I will hopefully keep everything else together...four remaining kids, Sunday prep, and my own sanity.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Out Wit, Out Play, Out Last - Wizard of Oz Style

Forget Micronesia. Jeff Probst and CBS cameras should head to our high school.'ll find it all in the drama department.

Teachers are lurking outside the drama doors trying to catch a glimpse. Teachers are leaving notes in the drama instructor's mailbox for inside information. TEACHERS are asking their students which way the prevailing winds are blowing.

And that's nothing to the electricity and paranoia circling among the students. Each class of the day is consumed with the latest gossip on who has tried out for whom. How their try-out went. And the conventional wisdom for who is getting what part. Loyalties are shifting like quicksand.

Very little instruction or learning is going on at this school this week. Unless you count it as prep-school for Survivor 17.

In case you're interested, Josiah thinks his stock has risen. He learns tomorrow if he has callbacks on Saturday. On Monday we'll pick up the pieces or wildly celebrate.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This account comes from my son's children church teacher...

Upon discussing God's desire for us to share and viewing a picture of children sharing their toys, Jodan says...

"I have a hard time sharing my toys. I think I need to talk to God."

He immediately folds his hands and prays silently while the stunned class looks on.

With a big smile, "OK. I feel better now!"

Where did this child come from?????

Oh that I could do business that quickly and simply with God!

Monday, January 28, 2008

My Son, The Wizard of Oz, and High School Try-Outs

Starting today, my oldest starts a week long flurry of try-outs for the "Wizard of Oz". This is the crowning moment for the drama department, their yearly musical. In the world of this little rural high school, these try-outs are huge.

Josiah has loved the "Wizard of Oz" since he was two years old. He watched it repetitively and had most of the lines memorized by the time he could talk in full sentences.

In grade school, Josiah played a munchkin for a similar high school production. He was one of the beefy lolly-pop guild. He had the striped socks till Junior High.

And now my son wants to play the Cowardly Lion. There are three boys vying for the part. Conventional wisdom at school is that Josiah will not get it.

But Josiah practiced his heart out this weekend. While telling himself he probably wouldn't get it, it was clear that he wanted the part even more.

So I pray for this oldest of mine, that he has peace and fun this week. That his interactions are full of grace. That he learns whatever life lesson God has for him...

And that he wins the part of the Cowardly Lion.

I am his mother, after all.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Silence


"The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?" Psalm 27:1

Saturday, January 26, 2008

God's Love and Baby Showers

Here we are. 17 sisters in Christ, all alumni of the Walk to Emmaus retreat, showing Agape love to Crissy and her baby on the way.

That picture is the culmination of a strange kind of day. One where God amazed me with small things.

God did nothing huge and flashy today. But his intimate involvement in even the smallest details reminded me of His deep love.

How so?
  • A hair cut. I haven't had one in 6 months. But everything worked out and today I got my long awaited hair cut.
  • Ginny's gift for the shower. I had no clue how I was going to get it. She "happened" to run into Brian at the store and gave him her gift right then and there!
  • Confusion about meeting place and time for the carpool. I gave up and was headed to the car to go home, so disappointed. And at that last second in came my ride.
  • Debbie, my ride, immediately included my daughter and set her up with a movie in the car. I hadn't even thought of taking Else Annah. But she made the day complete.
  • Such blessed conversation on the way.
  • A reunion with Walk to Emmaus friends at the shower. Food for my soul!
  • The light on Crissy's face when we walked in. Some of us travelled quite a bit to get there. Worth every mile!

Even in the one negative, the 1/2 hour wait for my ride, I realized how much I'd looked forward to today. The last second "rescue" helped me value all that God had done to give me this day.

Sometimes...a lot of the time...I focus on one really big prayer request. I pray, I beg, I plead. I hold up my empty bowl and wonder why He isn't filling it.

When all the time He's been trying to show me His love with a bushel full of small things.

Thank you, Father, for taking my focus off my pitiful, little, empty bowl and for helping me to see the overflowing bushel right beside me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jesus and Marbles

Marbles, paint, posterboard shapes, metal pans, and magnets. That's what our 2nd through 6th graders will get to play with this Sunday in Children's Church. All in the hopes of learning about Jesus calming the storm.

How so, you might ask. Can you control where a gloppy, messy marble rolls while tilting your metal pan?

Neither can I.

Nor can I control the storms in my life. The disciples surely couldn't control the storm on the Sea of Galilee.

Some of these children find themselves in the midst of pretty scary storms: divorce, abuse, neglect, lack of self-worth, and bullying just to name a few.

Those rolling, messy marbles will make a beautiful design on each child's posterboard shape. And while the marbles roll we will discuss how Jesus can bring calm and beauty to our storms.

If we let Him.

This idea and more like it are available at

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cloth Baby Shoes Completed!

Here they are! Two cozy little baby shoes, size 0-6 months.

I used navy corduroy with blue fleece for the right pair. The left pair are blue plaid wool with the same fleece.

I deviated from the pattern in just a couple ways. First, I used the main fabric for the sole instead of the recommended suede fleece. Since these fabrics are already heavy, I did not use a double layer of the main fabric for the sole. I just interfaced it. These shoes will never be walked in. That should be sufficient.

The second change I made is on the heel. I left the main fabric showing with the fleece as trim. The pattern shows doing the opposite.

The instructions on this tutorial are excellent. My only advice would be to follow them!

The first pair I made, I decided I knew better. The pattern says to fold down the top heel, sandwiching the elastic inside. I feared catching the elastic as I stitched. Surely I could just thread the elastic through after everything was sewn together.


I think it took me over an hour to thread the elastic through. The multiple layers of fabric and interfacing made threading virtually impossible. Lesson learned!

If you use heavy fabrics (as I did) make sure to use a heavy weight machine needle. I can't emphasize that enough. You truly need a denim or similar weight needle and go slow. Or you'll be breaking needles!

If you want to give these shoes a try, check out the Cloth Shoes Flickr group. There are lots of cute ideas. I've made my shoes very plain because of time constraints. But the toes of these cloth shoes just cry out for embellishment!

Sewing Baby Shoes Today

I'm making cloth baby shoes today for a baby shower on Saturday. My good friend Crissy is having her third boy.

Joanna's pattern (at Stardustshoes) are famous! They're highlighted at Sew Mama Sew!, Michael Miller Fabrics, and pictured in Mary Engelbreit Home Companion. Not to mention all the no-name bloggers like me that rave about them. still my frugal heart...her pattern-slash-tutorial is free! What a gal.

The first time I made these little guys, I was a bit embarrassed to bring such a small and easily made gift. But the response was wonderful. Maybe because the shoes look like Robeez.

It never ceases to amaze me that one morning + fabric scraps = adulation.

So once again, I pull out this great pattern. All the pieces are cut, interfaced, and marked for two pair of baby boy cloth shoes.

Stay and comments upon completion.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Memorizing Scripture - WFMW

Scripture memory is not one of my strong points. Whiling away the hours at the computer IS.

So rather than fight my issues, I try to find ways to embrace them. Or least find some redeeming quality...

And how do I do that with the computer? Why by using "The Scripture Memory System," a downloadable program at And, bless my frugal heart, this program is freeware!

It works likethis: I type in the verse I am learning. The program quizzes me in multiple ways and keeps a score. After scoring high enough repetitively, the verse is moved to "review".

All verses are tracked and shuffled. I can quiz myself on the whole lot or just portions.

There's even a voice feature. This little parrot guy will fly down and say the verses to me. He sounds a bit creepy. But, hey, you auditory learners might just love that feature.

This simple program has helped me learn many verses. And helped me feel better about my screen-time when I should have been scrubbing the floors...

Or cooking dinner...

Or folding laundry...

Or sleeping...

But hey, no guilt here. There's no higher calling than memorizing Scripture!

Oh...there is something in the Bible about moderation isn't there. Shoot.

Check over at Rocks in My Dryer for What Works for Me Wednesday. You find lots of cool tips...maybe even additional ways to legitimize your computer time!

The Svenson Brothers in The Grave Prince

My oldest son loves drama. He is part of a very active drama troupe in his high school. He is also a thespian!

This last weekend the drama department put on a medieval comedy dinner theater. It was a hoot!

My son was one of the four Svenson brothers. And here you can see him third from the left. The one with glasses.

These four brothers have come to court the clumsy Grace. Yes, four brothers, one girl. You see these brothers do everything together. In fact it takes all four of them to complete a sentence.

Alas, the fourth brother can only say one word: Ed. It's handy that this is also his name. Each brother says a word or so and waits on Ed to finish their thought.

And our proudest moment in this play was each time our son slapped poor Ed in the back of the head. The result? In deepest tortured voice..."ED!"

Here's how it went...

our brother...

He is

Where are
the lovely ladies
to be court...

Oh no,
we are never

We believe
that in the end
the best brother
will have triumph...

After this beautiful elocution, Grace comes in and knocks them all out with her mop.

It was a proud moment.

Good job Svenson brothers!

I hope Ed wasn't
brain damage...

Beef Enchiladas - GFCF Style

Here is the promised recipe and review for Beef Enchiladas! The picture at right is before baking. This recipe originally comes from Hillbilly Housewife. Her website is full of very frugal recipes. Many can be adapted for the GFCF diet.

Beef Enchiladas
2 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 chpd. onion
2 6 oz cans tomato paste
4 cups warm water
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Dash EACH oregano, black pepper
20-25 soft corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef or turkey and onion. Drain. Mix tomato paste, water, and spices in a separate bowl. Pour 1/2 of sauce mixture into skillet with meat. Heat together for a minute or so. Remove from heat. Warm corn tortillas. Roll each tortilla with about 3 T. of meat. Place in a large baking dish with seam side down. Cover with remaining sauce. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Top with refried beans, soy sour cream, lettuce, or desired toppings as you serve.

A few notes...

Don't squeeze 25 of these enchiladas into the same pan. It looks good in the picture above, but trust me, this recipe works much better when divided between two dishes.

Corn tortillas do not roll well unless they are hot. I've never been able to achieve the right temperature with the microwave. I've taken to heating them on a dry skillet for a few seconds in each side. You should see them steaming before they're done.

My son loves these in his lunch! I always hope there will be a few left for the next day. But there rarely is. If your family is not as big ours, consider using the extra for lunches.

This recipe feeds our family of 7 for about $5.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rebecca - 1997 Masterpiece Theatre Production

Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier, is my all time favorite book. I have read it probably ten times in my adult life. All of my favorite genres are between the covers of this book: romance, mystery, suspense, drama, and tragedy.

If you have not read Rebecca, I will do my best not to spoil the plot. Trust me, the following synopsis does not ruin the surprising twists and turns of this book.

The narrator, who remains nameless, is obsessed with her predecessor, Rebecca. An interloper in her own home, the narrator's imagination runs wild. She interprets every word and look as a comparison to Rebecca. She hears Rebecca's steps behind her and smells her scent in every room. But even she can't imagine what truly transpired at Manderley.

There have been two film adaptions (that I know of) of Rebecca. One by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1940s. And the Masterpiece Theatre rendition in 1997. I can't say I'm a fan of either.

But given the two, I would choose the '97 production. The script stays much closer to the book.

But here are my problems with it:
  • Max De Winter is not nearly as brooding or detached.
  • The narrator does not reach the levels of panic that she did in the book..
  • The car & cliff scene does not make any sense. Unrelated phrases were pulled from the book paired with unmatched emotion and a skid by the cliff. Really!! Why did they tamper with a perfectly good scene from the book??
  • They added and elaborated on the ending. This was totally unnecessary and only fed the next point...
  • They changed Mrs. Danvers from a insane neurotic to a jealous, sad lover. If you know the book...well, shall we say this is introducing an alternative lifestyle? to speak.

There was one deviation from the book that I liked: Faye Dunaway's performance as Mrs. Van Hopper. In the book, Mrs. Van Hopper was a social leech. She attached herself to anyone of the faintest notoriety.

Faye Dunaway's characterization of Mrs. Van Hopper was a middle aged woman trying to catch a rich husband. She did a great job and that change did not compromise the plot. In fact, I think Faye Dunaway's performance was one of the more enjoyable parts of the movie!

My recommendation: read the book!! If you still can't get enough, like me, watch both versions of the movie. Let me know which you prefer!


Sunday morning our two littles were singing praise songs in preparation for worship...

They are so spiritual for 5 and 6.

Their little voices raised in song...

"He is insulted. He is insulted on high!"

Daddy says, "What was that?"

5 year old says, "Yes, Daddy! Jesus is salted. He is a-salted on high!"

Oh my.

Davey Crockett Crochet Jacket & Hat

After a year and a half, I finally finished it. I think I originally started this in August of '06.

I'm great at starting projects. Not so great at finishing them.

After much reminding from my little guy, I finished this Davey Crockett ensemble right before Christmas and put it under the tree.

He barely can get it on, to my shame. But he loves it anyway. For the week after Christmas he rarely took the sweater off.

I crocheted the sweater in a terry yarn rather than the suggested suede. After finishing, I sewed on suede fringe.

The hat is crocheted out of a furry, mohair look yarn. The key is to choose something that looks like a dead animal. he he

The hat has a raccoon tail, of course! Crocheted in stripes.

This ensemble is just TOO cute! Hopefully I'll find a little boy to share this with once Jodan let's go of it.

Today he wore his Davey Crockett sweater to school. I snapped his picture early this morning. Doesn't he look proud?

This pattern comes from the book: Crochet for Kids: Sweaters for Infants, Girls, and Boys. I highly recommend this book for anyone who crochets. The patterns are wonderful.

Frankly, I usually don't like crochet for wearables. I much prefer the look of knitting. But this book offers crochet wearables that even pass my snooty test.

If you crochet, you should give it a look!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Children's Church & Plaster of Paris

I am the Children's Ministry director in our church. This past Sunday I taught a combined group of kids ages 1st through 6th grade a lesson on the Tower of Babel.

Teaching is often a humbling experience, especially when your card tower doesn't work correctly. Or when one of the boys has decided to make everything into a joke.

But I did learn something new on Sunday. Kids love to mix their own plaster of paris!

Plaster of paris. That stuff has been around since Billy Graham was in diapers. Maybe longer. Do you remember it? If you're over 30 and went to VBS anytime in your childhood you will have come in contact with plaster of paris.

One year I painted and decopauged an open Bible. Another year I painted (badly) praying hands. Another year I tried to fit the 10 commandments on that white form.

I have always thought the stuff was cheesy and boring. But the adults of 30 years ago were holding out on us... There's a whole 'nother side to plaster of paris that you and I never got to see.

My curriculum said to make bricks with the kids using plastor of paris. These bricks were to be a reminder to give God the glory, not ourselves.

In the spirit of being a "hands-on" class, I decided to let the kids mix their own plaster. Each kid got 1 1/2 cups of plaster paris and 3/4 cup of water in an aluminum foil bread pan. They stirred it with a tongue depresser. I helped get the lumps out, but basicly they did it themselves.

You would've thought I brought the Wii to class.

They loved the mess. They loved the stirring. They loved how quickly it set up. They loved the warmth the plaster gave off.

Let me tell you. One teacher to another. Don't write off plaster of paris.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Present

My comfie slippers. My mother made these.

She's gotten so cool since all of us kids have grown up and gotten out of her hair. Now she spins her own wool. She knits her own wool. She felts what she knits. She sews a ton of clothes for grand kids and orphanages. She embroiders. She quilts. She crochets. She needle-tats. She leaps over buildings with a single bound...

Well, not really. But she does give me hope that some day I'll have time to do all these things too. When I have grands. But I'm in NO hurry!

Back to my comfie slippers. My mother knit and felted slippers for the whole extended clan this year. These were not made of her hand spun wool, but carefully chosen variegated wools. Each pair was different. And they all had these cool leather soles.

I love my pair. The sole of the slipper was double-knit so that when felted it feels exactly like walking on foam. Amazing!
And I love the suede soles that go up on the side. Very practical. Since I wear these while walking through crushed cheerios and such.

I have five kids. Give me a break.

I love these slippers! Thanks mom!

WFMW - Window Cleaner without Vinegar

Everyone is in love with vinegar these days. For good reason. But I'm not a fan of vinegar-based window cleaners. I love my tried and true Beverly Nye window cleaner recipe.

It takes rubbing alcohol and ammonia. *gasp*

I know, I know. It's harsher. But let me tell you what I have washed off my windows...and walls...and stove...and refrigerator with this stuff.

Finger grime, crayon, food, snot, grease, face prints, and unnamed substances I did not care to know their origin.


And so I'll stick by my window cleaner and say..."It Works for Me!!"

Beverly Nye's Window Cleaner

1 pint water
4 tbsp. rubbing alcohol
4 tbsp. sudsy ammonia
squirt of food coloring if desired.

Mix and pour into a spray bottle.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tortilla Chip Pie - GFCF Style

One of my favorite frugal recipes is Hillbilly Housewife's Tortilla Chip Pie. It's extremely easy to make this GFCF by leaving out the cheese and double checking that your chips, spices, and tomato sauce are GFCF. Here's my adaptation of the recipe for our large family and the GFCF diet. The picture at left is before the dish is baked.
Tortilla Chip Pie

4 - 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained
2 lb. ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 - 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown turkey and onions. Drain. Add
kidney beans, tomato sauce and spices. Let simmer five minutes or so. Pour into
9 x 13 baking pan or casserole of similar capacity. Top with tortilla chips,
poking them into the meat mixture. Bake for 20 minutes. You can serve this as is, or serve as a taco salad with lettuce, salsa, soy sour cream, etc.
I usually can make this dish for around $6, feeding a family of 7. I highly recommend sifting through the recipes at Hillbilly Housewife. She cooks very simply without using seasoning mixes, cream soups, pre-made sauces, etc. I find those factors make her recipes very frugal and easier to adapt for GFCF. I'll be highlighting her Beef Enchiladas next time we have them for supper. It's a wonderful recipe!!

Friday, January 11, 2008


My 15 year old son...

With wide eyes and manic energy....

"I remember THAT move (The Silver Chair)! It was the first time I had Colby cheese!"

Huh, imagine that...Prince Caspian and Colby cheese forever linked in your psyche...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Packing GFCF Lunches

Packing school lunches has been the hardest part of the GFCF diet for me, and I think for my son. He loved eating the hot lunches our little Christian school provided. I'm so thankful that Joseph is so easy going. He has rarely complained about the switch, but I can see the wistful look once in awhile.

So here is what has worked for us, so far...

  1. Leftovers from the night before. This is by far Joseph's favorite. We pack up a container of last night's Tortilla Chip Pie, Crock Pot Chili, or Enchiladas and he's a happy camper.
  2. Rice Crackers from the Oriental section of Kroger and cut-up GFCF deli meat. A homemade Lunchable!
  3. Peanut Butter on Health Valley Rice Bran Crackers. These crackers have a similar taste to Graham Crackers. I find them in the organic sections at both Kroger and Giant Eagle.
  4. Rolled GFCF deli meat. Sometimes I roll it plain, sometimes with a lettuce leaf. He likes it either way.
  5. GFCF bun made from Bob's Red Milk GF Bread Mix and a GFCF sausage pattie, with mustard of course!
  6. GFCF sliced bread (above brand) with GFCF deli meat.
  7. And on Friday, which is pizza day at our school, he gets homemade pizza using this recipe, topped with Ragu Organic Garden Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce and Hormel Pepperoni.

Only the protein/main dish is listed above. I find the rest of the lunch easy to pack. I try to include a fruit or vegetable and a GFCF cookie or tortilla chips. We have reusable juice boxes that I put in lemonade, 100% juice, or caffeine-free tea.

Packing GFCF lunches has forced me to think ahead more. But it's doable. And worth it, especially since we're now seeing more smiles and eye contact!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hetty & the Queen's English

I've been on a Hetty Wainthropp marathon of late. I'm also a fan of Keeping Up Appearances, Hercule Poirot, and *gasp* even Dr. Who. The differences between the "Queen's English" and American English fascinating! And I can't even begin to understand cockney or a heavy Irish brogue.

I found this fun little time-waster while in Brit withdrawal. I just finished the last episode of Hetty...

Your Score: Hollywood Graduate

Great Britain salutes you for scoring a staggering 48%

It seems you take your lead from Spielberg rather than Shakespeare in matters of language. You're aware of some linguistic differences between the USA and the UK, but probably only because you heard them in a movie starring yet another British villain. If you feel like broadening your horizons, consider reading books which don't come prepackaged with DVD box sets.

Link: The Queen's English Test

I guess I won't be passin' meself off as a subject o' the Queen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Mother's Preconceptions

Sally has a great post over on her blog, A Gracious Home. She poses the question, "What should children do by the age of ten?" and then has a great list and comments.

I have three children over the age of ten and two more half way there. Her list reminded me how I eagerly anticipated re-experiencing the joys of my childhood through their eyes.

As I went through her list, I recalled this expectation. I also recalled how often I was totally disappointed by my children's reactions.

Sitting here today, I found it all quite funny! I had preconceptions of what my children would enjoy. The reality was they rarely reacted how I planned. Do children ever?

I'll borrow from Sally's list and share my remembrances...

Catch fireflies...I have not gotten one...ONE...of my children to be willing to do this. "Catch bugs??? What's wrong with you, Mom!?!"

Light sparklers...I have spent every 4th of July twirling sparklers while my family watches at a safe distance with buckets of water and sand. Well, not the buckets, but they're clearly ready to run.

Build a snowman...None of them have lasted a full snowman. After about the middle snowball, they're ready for snow angels or hot chocolate.

The beach...Great memories there, but their favorite thing was the hammock on the cottage porch.

Sandbox...They loved it. I hated it. Sand in the hair, the ears, the laundry, the floors, the shoes, and so on...

Baseball game...They were bored by the game, but thankfully it was minor-league. They loved the dancing characters and t-shirts shot out of cannons!

Camp...This was similar to the sandbox. Great for them. I felt like I'd turned into a domestic slave. Cook. Clean-up. Straighten-up campsite. Repeat.

Swing...finally, yes swinging is/was a good memory.!? Refer to fireflies.

Ride a just hasn't come natural for most of our children, motor-skill issues. Two of my olders now refuse and two youngers are still on training wheels. That equals one qualified bike rider out of the lot.

Zoo...yes, good memory. They got bored a bit quick, but still a winner.

Thanks, Sally for the fun I've had reflecting on your post today. That little list helped me laugh at something that has troubled me in the past. I can let go of my unmet expectations and enjoy the kids for who they are.

Maybe my grandkids will like sparklers....

Monday, January 7, 2008

Frugal Alternatives for Day Planners

It's that time of year. I'm ready to shell out money for the coolest looking planner on the market. Those pink covers with brown polka-dots might hold the answer to my organizational woes!

This temptation besets me every New Year. Finally, I've grown more discerning. There are three facts I know about myself and about Day Planners. I now extended grace to my psyche and admit these facts...without guilt.
  1. I am visual, so visual that I think a pretty calendar will instantly transform me. Memo to self: a pink cover with brown polka dots won't keep my sink clear of dirty dishes.

  2. I am fickle, so fickle that in a month I will be bored of the calendar. But, empty planner pages will not conquer my Mt. Laundry.

  3. I struggle with inner voices of guilt. In a month that expensive, pink and brown polka dotted calendar will scream failure.

So, what do I do with this urge for a Day Planner? And the desire to get organized...again.

Well, I plan to make use of it before it flits away. I am going to try to get organized. I do plan to use some type of planner. But I am committed to make my planner simple, small, and free.

In a month or so, I will give myself any needed grace if the little planner is collecting dust. Life is too short for guilt. Period.

If you're like me, then you may enjoy these links. Each will take you to a site that has some type of free, printable calendar or planner.

Warning: some of these options are very detailed. Be kind to yourself. Keep it simple.

Weekly Planner and To Do Lists
DIY Planner
Household Notebook
Homeschool & Organizer Planner (most of these pages are not specifically homeschool)
Kristen's Guide Calendars & Planners (scroll down past the ads)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sunday Silence

"It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. " Revelation 21:11

Overheard... her Sunday School teacher.

"Dear Jesus, thank You that I got the mostest gifts..."

What a proud moment for the preacher's wife...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Why Ps. 103:1-5 Is My Story

Psalm 103
Of David.
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-
3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Psalm 103:1-5 is the theme of this blog. Specifically, vs. 5 filters my blog content. I want to concentrate on "The Good Things", because my nature is just the opposite.

Psalm 103:1-5 is my story, mine and my husband's. These five verses have marched through our lives like an advancing army. There was little remaining when we reached vs. 3.

Then God began His redeeming work in vs. 4. And now, in vs. 5, He is renewing us.

On January 1, 2002, my husband's long hidden addiction to pornography tore into our lives. It shredded our ministry, our security, our marriage, our home. 2002 was spent in a dark basement, trying to pick up the pieces.

During that first year, we found a church that would love and accept us, found counselling, and began to learn the reality of vs. 3.
Over the course of four years, God freed my husband, healed our hearts and wove our family back together. It wasn't easy. We fought sin, depression, and poverty. But beautiful things came out of that time of fire.

On January 1, 2006, the same church that walked beside us, asked my husband to be their pastor. Now we minister together to the same people who ministered to us. Clearly God worked the miracle of verse 4 in our lives.

Today, we live in verse 5. The hurts of the past sometime still threaten us. The burdens of the ministry can weigh upon us. We sometimes still feel charred and tired and old. But I feel God calling us to find "The Good Things" and to join Him as He "renews our youth like the eagle's".

There are many things that bring me joy: some big, some small. They may not excite you, but that's OK. This blog is for me. My project to chronicle what brings me joy and what is renewing my youth.

I pray you find a bit of joy when you visit here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Laura's Slow Cooker Chili

There's various forms of this recipe on the Internet. But I wanted to share with you how I've adapted it for our gluten-free, casein-free, frugal family. I've made a few changes to the original recipe for our family-size, dietary restrictions, and taste. This recipe is just enough to feed our family of 7, including three teenage boys. It goes even further with a pan of cornbread. But I've yet to perfect GFCF cornbread...

Laura's Slow Cooker
adapted by Beth @ I Can Fly

2 lb. ground turkey
3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
6 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained
3/4 medium onion, chopped
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 pinches black pepper
1 1/2 pinches allspice
additional salt to taste

Brown turkey; use oil if necessary. Drain. Mix tomato sauce, honey, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Heat to boiling. Simmer till thick. Coat slow cooker with cooking spray. Put in browned turkey, thickened sauce, and remaining ingredients. Stir to mix. This is a thick chili; add water if desired. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Good served with corn chips, soy sour cream, cheese-sub or cheese if tolerated.
I would estimate I make this meal for under $6.50, feeding 7.

You can find loads of frugal tips at Frugal Friday on Crystal's Blog, Biblical Womanhood.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

2008 Budget Challenge

Crystal at Money Saving Mom has issued the 2008 Financial Challenge! And I'm in. This will be a multi-step process from what I can tell. First we're going to work on budgeting.

As a ministry family our income is a bit modest for a family of seven. But believe you me, it's worlds better than where we were four years ago! So no complaining here.

But we do have a few challenges. On my husband's income alone we have about $100 leeway every two weeks. I earn a small salary as his office assistant and I sell hand made soaps. These two things are what gets us from week to week, all those unexpected expenses.

For being unexpected, they sure do come up regularly!! Budgeting for three teenagers, now there's a topic!

Anywhoo, yes we do have a budget. Basicly a list of bills and when they're due. Budget-wise my goal for 2008 is to see us pare down where we can, see if I can earn a bit more, and see if we can get some emergency savings.

God's provision is good. He's not failed us yet. But I think my stomach acid would calm down if we could have some savings...

So go check Crystal's blog out and join the challenge! Let's make 2008 a financially great year!

Loaded Baked Potatoes - Frugal, GFCF, and Yummy!

My ASD son loves potatoes. With this diet, that's a huge blessing! He particularly likes baked potatoes. And so one of my new favorite GFCF meals is loaded baked potatoes.

To bake a potato, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the skin of your potato. If you want a soft-skinned potato rub the skin with oil or GFCF margarine. Prick the potato several times with a fork to let steam out during cooking. You can wrap your potato in foil or not, either way works. Medium sized potatoes will be done in an hour. My potatoes last night took about and hour and fifteen minutes. To tell if their done, just plunge the fork in. There should be little resistance with a done potato.

I don't like microwaved potatoes. I'd rather just have something else, but there are days when the microwave is a life saver. So here are the directions for microwaving your potato. Prepare the skin as if you were baking. Do NOT wrap in foil. Some will wrap in saran wrap, but I have found that unnecessary and it leads to burns! The saran holds in steam and when you unwrap get the picture. Anyway, put your potato on a plate and microwave between 3 and 8 minutes, depending on the size of your potato. You don't want your potato to be completely done. Give it an additional 5 minutes of rest time in the microwave so it can continue to cook as the steam is released.

Have you ever baked your potato in the crockpot? I love this option! Prepare your potatoes as you would for baking. Use foil if desired. Pack the crock pot full and put on low for 8 to 10 hours, high for 4. No need for water in the crockpot. The potatoes will steam themselves.

Now for the yummy part: Loading your potato! This is where you can please all members of your family (hopefully). Everyone can top their potato as they like. Non-GFCF family members can have their goodies and hopefully you have the equivalent on hand for your GFCF child.

Toppings we enjoy:
GFCF margarine
sour cream/soy sour cream
cooked broccoli
crisp bacon
and for the non-GFCF, sharp cheddar cheese
salt & pepper

The options are limitless. You could have vegetarian chili, any chopped veggie known to man, salsa, gravy, herbs, name it!

5 out of 7 in my family will eat this meal. In our home, that translates to "a keeper"!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Frugal, Homemade, Aluminum-Free Baking Powder - WFMW

In our pursuit to remove all offenses from my autistic son's diet, aluminum-free baking powder is a must. I'm frugal at heart so throwing away my reserves of baking powder was painful! They were purchased for a small percentage of what aluminum-free baking powders cost.

Then I had one of those "duh" moments! I had completely forgotten about my Tightwad Gazette books. The detailed price comparisons of baking powders complete with homemade recipe had slipped my mind!

2 parts cornstarch, arrowroot, or tapioca starch/flour
1 part baking soda
1 part cream of tartar

The above recipe is good if you would like to pre-mix your baking powder. The cornstarch keeps the baking soda and cream of tartar from reacting. If absolute frugality is your goal then use this combination...

1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
in place of each teaspoon of baking powder in your recipe.

If you have a bulk foods store near you (we live near Amish communities) then you can find the cream of tartar at very reasonable prices, making your baking powder even more cost effective!

Cooking GFCF has not been good for the grocery budget. So I get excited when I stumble across little helps like this!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Blessings of 2007

This year I'm finding myself indifferent to the New Year's holiday. It just seems like shuffling numbers to me. Sorry, but I just can't muster up the expectancy. I don't like doing New Year's resolutions. I don't need the extra pressure and guilt.

So I pondered how to observe this New Year on my blog. Resolutions are out. I don't want to dwell on the negatives of 2007. And 2007 had some. But I am committed to making this blog a place for positive things, not negative. And that's when it struck me...or rather God finally got my attention.

"Write down ten blessings of 2007."

I'm ashamed to say my first reaction was not so positive. But I got to thinking on it. And within a half hour I had my list and more. And I had a change of attitude.

And God says, "Exactly!"

So here goes...Ten Blessings of 2007:

  • The Pastor's & Wives Retreat at the Carlisle Inn, Sugarcreek, OH. Our church district holds an annual retreat for pastors and their wives each February at the Carlisle. We had never been. Our church picked up the tab and we spent two days in the lap of luxury. Oh, I get warm all over thinking about it. Note to self: find the reservation form for this year...
  • Disney World Vacation in May. We got to tack this one with our denomination's National Council in Orlando. Our family of seven got two weeks in a condo and spent ten days at DW! Friends let us borrow their van and our church had a gift of money waiting for us at conference registration. There was no other way we could have taken a family of 7 on that vacation! My absolute favorite was watching it all unfold through my five and six year old's eyes.

  • We were given a 2001 Toyota Sienna. It's tan, just like the picture above with leather seats. Given it! Free and clear, no debt, nothing. It was a gift, pure and simple. What can I say?
  • I worked on a team for the Women's Walk to Emmaus in September. I gave a talk on the Body of Christ. Something clearly supernatural happened during my talk. God seemed to inhabit the conference room. People felt His presence actually leave with me at the close. Afterwards I collapsed in tears and exhaustion and marvelled at what He had done. In that talk I shared our story, my husband's and mine. I will share it here some time in the future. But somehow that day God chose to inhabited that place in a way I rarely experience. This...this was the absolute highlight of 2007.

  • We started the GFCF diet with our ASD son in November. And since then we've seen improvement for which we're very thankful. His anger has decreased. He is making better eye contact. (We actually got some good Christmas pictures this year!) He has a sense of humor now. And he's conversing more with all of us. Thank you, Jesus!
  • My little neice Sarah came through her third heart procedure this year. It all went very smoothly. Prior procedures had not! Her OT sats are still a bit low. She probably faces another surgery with the year. But, in 2007, she came through with flying colors. We are truly thankful!


  • I'm thankful for my children in 2007 and how they grew: physically, emotionally, spiritually. I'm thankful for their unique personalities and how they each stretch me and help me grow.

  • I'm thankful that our finances forced me to be creative this Christmas season. I got out my sewing machine and enjoyed making many presents for my extended family. It was a good feeling! Pictured is my daughter with an American Girl doll that I restored and made matching outfits for them both. Behind her is a teepee that I made for my son.

  • Starting in September we worked with four other couples in our denomination to plan the district Christmas banquet. This might not seem like a big deal. But I was so blessed to get to know these fellow workers better. We continue to feel more and more a part of this adopted family: The Christian & Missionary Alliance.

  • Celebrating Christmas with our church family was truly a blessing in 2007. Their generous giving helped us finish out this year in the black. We gained a new-to-us television which replaces one soon to give up the ghost. And we were able to worship our coming Savior together in two sacred services. God blessed us by showing up at our Christmas observances: even when many in our congregation were weary and distracted (including yours truly). Thank you, Father, for that gift.

Yes 2007 was a year of blessings. Because even during struggles, God is there; God is good. Always.